Friday, July 30, 2010

Mujtaba on Radicalization of Islam

Muslim university students trying to impose burqa on woman lecturer in West Bengal

by Nirmala Carvalho

Shirin Middya is a lecturer at Aliah University, a Islamic institution. The local student union wants her to wear a burqa if she wants to teach even though the university has no dress code. Syed Ali Mutjaba, a journalist and peace activist, warns about the rise of radical Islam in Indian society.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – Islamic extremism is growing in India, this according to Syed Ali Mujtaba, an Indian journalist and founder of the South Asia Contact Group. He spoke to AsiaNews about a recent incident in which the student union at an Islamic university prevented a woman lecturer from speaking unless she wore a burqa.

Shirin Middya, 24, was recently hired to teach at Aliah University, West Bengal’s first Islamic university, in Kolkata. Back in second week of April, students told her to wear a burqa; otherwise, they would not allow her to teach. News about the incident surfaced only last week. The university does not have any dress code, and wearing the burqa is not required.

Ms Middya said that she would wear the full-face garment but only of her own free will. Still, she concerned that the “students are forcing us to wear the burqa”.

Syed Ali Mutjaba, writer and peace activist, said that he is concerned about incidents of this sort. The “increasing radicalisation of Indian society is extremely worrisome,” he said.

“In India, this radicalisation is a recent phenomenon. Islam in India is centuries old and there are many varieties of Islam,” he explained. “However, in recent times, groups that promote a radical or militant Islam are trying to grab space and are influencing the youth towards their ideas and beliefs and practices that are supposed to be of a hardliner militant version of Islam. This trend is very disturbing for a multi religious society like India.”

For Ali Mutjaba, “there is an urgent need for inclusive development at two levels, one” based n the notion of “unity in diversity and inter-faith dialogue”, the other on discussions “within the Islamic community itself.”

Indeed, “we have to encourage modern and enlightened Muslims to look at things in their totality, not merely from a religious angle.”

Extremism is not however a Muslim prerogative. “Sadly, this kind of radicalisation is a growing trend in India, even among certain elements among our Hindu brethren.”

Among Muslims, certain elements are “trying to create an exclusive community, one that is different from the rest of society, [. . .] trying to carve a niche for themselves as representatives of the Muslim community.”

In reality in India, “there are so many different varieties of Islam. And the dominant ones have nothing to do with extremism. Regrettably, these [extremist] elements make it appear that either you are with us or with the enemy.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Remembering National Emergency on 35th Anniversary

Remembering National Emergency on 35th Anniversary
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are certain milestones in independent India that divides the nation into its pre and post phase. One of them definitely is the national Emergency of 1975 and people in the country demarcate India between two clear phases that’s pre and post Emergency.

The young generation is unaware of this dark phase of contemporary India under national Emergency. They also don’t know the sacrifices that were made by the young generation then to retrieve the democratic rights that were taken away by the autocratic ruler of that time.

In the 35th anniversary of the national Emergency, the future generation needs to be told the graphic details of that landmark event and should be cautioned that such experimentation be never tried on the Indian masse ever again.

The proclamation of Emergency on 26th June, 1975 was the darkest day of Indian History, when we nearly lost our hard-earned freedom. It was the day when democracy was derailed, people of dissenting voices were detained without any trial and media was gagged and silenced.

It became authoritarian rule of one person where Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi became law unto herself where a chapter of authoritarian and extra constitutional rule began where she and her son Sanjay Gandhi were calling the shots.

Traditional and ethical values were discarded and all the arms of the state were in the service of authoritarian assertion of one personality. It was the erosion of moral values from the politics and other democratic institutions.

Reminiscing 15th August, 1947 when country got freedom and India’s first Prime Minister Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru built up brick by brick the democratic institutions of the country. The system that was built by the architect of modern India was kept aside by none other than his own daughter under the self created circumstances in 1975. She made every effort to pull it down and to destroy them.

Morality was squeezed from the politics and politics became an adjunct of power grabbing. Rather than to serve the people, provide vibrancy to people’s sovereignty and ultimately strengthen democratic polity, power because a story of a chair (Kisa Kursee Ka).

The immediate reason for the proclamation of the Emergency was; Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha had declared Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s 1971 election invalid and barred her from holding political office for 6 years.

Mrs. Gandhi refused to accept the landmark judgment and instead her government at the Centre declared Emergency on June 26th, 1975.

The Shah Commission Report had cautioned Mrs. Gandhi that there was no such law and order problem and the country did not warranted the declaration of Emergency. However, Mrs. Gandhi cared little about any such suggestions and she went ahead with the proclamation of Emergency as she wanted to cling to power by any means.

Parliamentary norms were violated. The President of India signed on dotted lines and cabinet members played a subservient role in endorsing that. There was all around degeneration and the way democratic institutions behaved was the source of concern. Even Press was no longer an instrument of empowerment.

Emergency was declared to suppress the people’s democratic aspirations. During those nineteen months the fundamental rights of the people were suspended and any recourse to justice was smothered under the authoritarian rule.

During emergency press censorship, slum eviction and forceful sterilization and others misdeeds were executed with impunity. The repression unleashed against the common people at Turkman Gate in Delhi and near Jama Masjid were glaring examples of state brutality. Poor Muslims were targeted to adhere to family planning through forced sterilization; many among them were unmarried youth.

The Union Carbide Company got the order cleared to set-up industry during Emergency for the production of poisonous Methyl Iso-cayanite (MIC) in the thickly populated area in Bhopal. This led to the industrial catastrophe where thousands were killed and maimed for life and people still are struggling to get justice.

The role of police in combating communal onslaught was dismal during Emergency. In fact it was the patronage during the Emergency RSS and their ilk got that in the post emergency period they emerged emboldened. It was with the help of the administration connivance they unleashed communal mayhem and destroyed the pluralist traditions of the country.

In the aftermath of emergency the National Police Commission which came into being to serve the people in accordance to the provisions of the constitution has yet to gain any importance. Had such mechanism may have been put on the pedestal, its felt that the perpetration of 1984 anti-Sikh riot in Delhi and in 2002 anti Muslim riots in Gujarat may have been prevented.

Initially people in the country could not make out what the Emergency was all about. As the counters of emergency were slowly getting unraveled and the murder of democracy was being confirmed, people came out on streets to protest against the undemocratic rule.

Students played a very big role in leading the mass protest. They boycotted their schools and colleges and did fear their arrest. The teachers too played a significant role and they too actively participated in the protest. So were the Lawyers who boycotted the bar and joined the street protest.

It was a celebration of rebellion that was seen during the 19 months of emergency rule in India. There are many political leaders who are now on the national scene are the product of the mass protest.

Finally the mighty of the mightiest had to bow down to the din and clatter of the people’s protest and the national Emergency was withdrawn on 21st March, 1977, and fresh Lok Sabha Election was announced.

It was the resilience of the democratic society and its people which had played significant role in restoring democracy by voting against the authoritarian rule. They gave stinging rebuff to the proponents of Emergency at the husting of 1977.

After that the country breathed a sigh of relief that’s how two phases of India got demarcated. One is pre emergency and other post emergency. A parallel can be drawn with the proclamation of emergency and attenuation of democratic polity in the present situations.

The true democracy that is enshrined in our constitution and manifested during emergency like a flash in a pan has gone into oblivion specially when we see the glaring repression and authoritarianism manifested by the Indian state.

In certain quarters emergency still exists informally in different forms. The government of the day is indulging in anti-people activity with the full support of the state apparatus. The emergency like situation is being created with the policy shift under Neo-Liberal structural change and disparity between poor and rich has widened.

The democracy has become so diluted that common masses are struggling to salvage their democratic polity from the stranglehold of capitalist onslaught.

It is high time to retrieve democratic polity from the imposition of anti-people and anti-democratic policies initiated by the government and which has the potential to create governance issues that haunted the people of this country during those dark days of emergency of 1975.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Football is fun Celebrate and Play it safe!

Football is fun Celebrate and Play it safe!
Syed Ali Mujtaba

‘Religion is no more the opiate of the masses; football has taken its place’ says a wise of contemporary times twisting the Marxian phrase; religion is an opiate of the masses.

As FIFA world football fever has griped the nations, continents and world as a whole, the new prophesy is worth relishing.

Utilizing the World Cup Football fever to provide education on STI/HIV/AIDS and safe sexual behavior a public awareness event was organized in Chennai city on July 8, 2010.

The objective of the event was to link the current interest in football due to the ongoing world cup with the message on STI/HIV/AIDS.

A display of huge banner with a football picture covered with condoms titled “Football is fun, Celebrate and play it safe” was displayed at the venue of the event. The banner is going to remain on display at the venue from 8th to 12th July 2010.

Ln.Parthasarathy, Region Chair Person, Lions Club International District 324A-1, inaugurated the event. Ms. D.Kamakshi, Lions Club, District Chair Person, HIV/AIDS Education released the Poster.

Sports personal, youth, NGO’s, CEO’s, policy makers, communication experts and general public together took an oath on their commitment towards STI/HIV/AIDS prevention and not to discriminate people living with HIV/AIDS.

"I am sure that this message will be taken to the larger audience particularly the sports lover,” said A. J. Hariharan, Secretary of Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO).

“ICWO is committed to disseminate information on STI/HIV/AIDS in various occasions which normally creates a lot of interest to the general public," he added.

ICWO is a non-profitable, non-governmental organization working for STI/HIV/AIDS Prevention, care and support programs among various target community in specific focus with high risk groups for the past fifteen years.

ICWO used similar occasion to educate people on STI/HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support and work towards reducing stigma and discrimination against core and vulnerable population.

Actionaid India, Chennai Region / Rotary Club of Chennai were the other partners of ICWO that organized the event.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at